The Pittsburgh Pirates have optioned starting pitcher Brad Lincoln to AAA after today’s start, and have designated Brendan Donnelly for assignment. Lincoln was called up in the middle of June, but struggled in his debut. Lincoln posted a 6.29 ERA in 44.1 innings heading in to today’s outing, with an 18:12 K/BB ratio. Four of his eight starts prior to today were quality starts, although three of those were the three runs in six innings variety, which doesn’t match up with the expectations on Lincoln.
Today Lincoln allowed six runs in 6.1 innings of work, with eight hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. The bulk of the damage came in the third inning, when Lincoln allowed five runs. His next start was scheduled for July 31st, although it’s unknown who will make that start, as there aren’t many internal candidates who look ready.
The move with Donnelly is a bit of a surprise, but not for performance reasons. Donnelly hasn’t had the best season, with a 5.58 ERA, a 7.6 K/9, and a 7.3 BB/9 ratio. For awhile, Donnelly was doing fine in key situations, but was struggling in appearances where the game was out of reach. Recently he’s been struggling in all situations, with his control looking horrible. Rob Biertempfel mentions that Donnelly’s $1.65 M incentives were about to start kicking in, so it’s likely the Pirates didn’t want to pay extra for the poor work from Donnelly.
Donnelly has two options, although he has the right to refuse any optional assignment due to his years of service time. The Pirates have ten days to trade, waive, or release Donnelly. A trade could be possible, although in any case it’s likely the Pirates will be eating the majority of what is left on Donnelly’s $1.35 M salary. It’s unlikely that this will affect Donnelly’s trade value. He wasn’t pitching well, and is a free agent after the season, so even without the DFA he wasn’t going to get much.
Donnelly leaves an open spot on the 40-man roster, with two roster spots open. One candidate for the open 40-man spot, and for the open bullpen spot, is Wilfredo Ledezma. Ledezma has a 0.94 ERA in 38.1 innings in relief at Indianapolis, with a 11.7 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9, and a .156 BAA. Ledezma hasn’t allowed a run since the month of May, with 21 scoreless innings in June and July, and a 32:9 K/BB ratio in that time span.
As for candidates to take the open rotation spot, there’s always a chance that could come externally. Lincoln’s next start comes after the trade deadline, which leaves open the possibility of the Pirates adding a major league ready starting pitcher to insert in to that spot in Lincoln’s place. As for internal options, there’s not really anyone who could be better than Lincoln, although D.J. Carrasco could be an option. Carrasco has pitched in extended roles before, and has made starts previously in his career. Other candidates on the 40-man roster are Brian Burres, Sean Gallagher, Daniel McCutchen, and Charlie Morton, although as I said before, none of those options seem better than Lincoln.
In the short term, my guess is the Pirates bring up some bullpen help for the Tuesday through Friday games. I also don’t think a move would be announced until Tuesday, with Monday being an off-day.
The 40-man roster/payroll page has been updated.